Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
An uplifting story about the turnaround of a family business
If you like rooting for the underdog, you’ll enjoy Rob Alexander’s Starlight Cafe. In it, a 20-something guy takes over his uncle’s failing cafe while he’s on vacation. While facing many trials and tribulations, the Starlight Cafe begins to have a chance at becoming the restaurant his uncle has always dreamed of. That is, if some heavy hitters don’t succeed in shutting it down first.
Readers are taken on a rollercoaster ride of restaurant drama, family drama, and a few run-ins with the law in this heartwarming underdog story.
After 30 years of running his own cafe, Stan feels that it’s time to start a new journey toward retirement. His nephew Jack seems like the perfect candidate to take over his job as he spent many years frequenting the cafe as a child. With just a day or two of training, Jack is quickly thrust into a trial-run ownership opportunity while his uncle Stan goes on a 6-week holiday vacation.
The Starlight Cafe is in rough shape, but with the help of some unlikely allies, Jack is able to reinvent the place and draw the attention of a hip new crowd. But that isn’t the only attention that his new spot catches. A big burger chain feels that the Starlight Cafe is a threat to their business, so they make it their mission to take them out of the game.
While balancing running the cafe, relationships, and an evil big corporation, it’s safe to say that Jack has a lot on his plate.
The novel’s high point is undeniably in its intriguing plot of a big burger chain coming after a small family business. The chain is owned by a big tobacco company, making them an easy villain to hate. There are many scenes with the workers of the company that are so hilariously evil, it’s impossible not to chuckle. Author Rob Alexander creates the perfect bad guys for this lighthearted story, and their antics add a good amount of extra stress to the already stressful job of trying to run a restaurant.
This story is a heartwarming one of small business vs. big business, but there are a few aspects that occasionally make it hard to believe.
First, the cafe makes a complete turnaround in just a matter of days, and Jack finds success with his healthy burger idea despite little money, time, or experience. Since the business narrative is the primary story in this one, it could have helped us a bit more if we understood how Jack is able to thrive so quickly like this.
I also left wanting more from the characters and their relationships. Their dialogue is rather formal, and we don’t get much page-time with the people we’re supposed to root for the most. The relationship between Julie and Jack, for example, feels underdeveloped, as does the blossoming romance between Ben and Cassie. Theirs is supposed to be the leading romance of the story, and I still felt like I never got a good idea of who they were or why they worked together.
Despite its flaws, there is plenty to enjoy in Starlight Café. We get to witness a family business rebuilt from the ground-up, and we constantly root for Jack to overcome his obstacles. If you’re in the mood to dive deep into the inner-workings of a family restaurant business, this could be a good fit for you.
Genre: General Fiction / Humor & Satire
Print Length: 408 pages
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